I might have overestimated what it meant to "infiltrate" the "underground" "scene" of New York City arcades. I say this because the idea for this story was based on this one rainy Saturday afternoon, 6 years ago, when I stumbled into an arcade in Chinatown that was in the midst of a Street Fighter tournament. It was the closest thing I'll ever come to competing in a Bloodsport-esque kumite. One kid's shinbone even popped out of his skin. Okay, that's a lie but he did cry like it did after losing a match to an 11-year-old Chinese girl.
Come to find out, there aren't always highly competitive Street Fighter tournaments going on in New York City arcades. There are, however, tons of kids and grown men better than me at Street Fighter hanging out in New York City arcades. I know this because I decided to, in an effort to create something interesting to write about, hang out by every Street Fighter machine in every arcade I visited and challenged anyone that would accept. All agreed, no one lost. Also by “every arcade” I mean “two arcades.” Keep reading and you’ll understand why.
While Big Buck Hunter is fun, you can't "infiltrate" an arcade scene by challenging frat boys to see who's the better fake hunter. You can only fake fist fight them.
The first arcade I hit was called Two-Bit’s Retro Arcade, located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It's basically a bar filled with some classic arcade games, pinball and of course, Big Buck Hunter, which is where most of the patrons/idiots spent their quarters. While BBH is fun, you can't "infiltrate" an arcade scene by challenging frat boys to see who's the better fake hunter. You can only fake fist fight them.
With that said, nobody was playing Street Fighter when I arrived. So I pumped a solid five spot into Final Fight while surveying the SF 2 scene until, what looked like, a couple of seasoned vets showed up. Once it seemed as though they were warmed up, I moseyed on over and asked to play the winner. They were not thrilled, but would soon be very pleased to realize how easy it was to wipe the floor with me. I tried Ryu. Done. I switched to Guile. An even quicker defeat. Out of pure desperation, went with Chun-Li.
It was one pathetic loss after another. They loved it. I became enraged. I do not handle losing well, even when I know going in that I will most likely lose. Once my anger got the best of me, I headed to the bar to cool off and wait for another around of challengers. They did not show up. These two played for another solid 35 minutes until they left. Once they were gone, I went back to try to gain some semblance of a moral victory by beating the computer. It also did not happen.
I left sad, defeated and quarter-less.
It's a good thing I let my frustrations out when and where I did, with adults at a bar, because it would not have boded well to carry myself in such manner at Chinatown Fair. This is the aforementioned arcade that held the Street Fighter tournament I wandered into oh so many years ago. While it wasn't the same flurry of activity that I had previously encountered, the talent level was in fact just as high.
Street Fighter 4 and King of Fighters 13 (There have been 12 of these already??) were the games of choice and adolescent Asian boys were my executioners. I'm not sure if any of you know what it feels like to be quietly emasculated by humans who are less than half your age, but it is not fun. I was out of there in 20 minutes. My fragile ego simply could not handle the pummeling that was bestowed upon me by these kids, while THEIR PARENTS watched, for much longer than that. I had to go shoot hoops for half hour just to remind myself that I'm actually good at something.
Long story short, I do not belong in arcades. Or rather, I should not be going to an arcade with any kind of agenda other than beating another adult male in air hockey or maybe that boxing game where you punch the shit out of a punching bag. I can definitely punch harder than a 14-year-old. Unless it's in Punch Out, then I punch more like a toddler pissed at his dad for not getting him ice cream.
God I hate myself.